I noted in my previous post that I haven’t child-proofed my house. There’s no need – as I’ve said, the children in my life are all overseas, our up-country. We live in a house on the side of a hill, no lawn, a building hazard of a deck that might be finished by the end of the century, four staircases, and hazardous chemicals within reach of the average toddler.
When children visit, we might child-proof our house a little. Anything precious that might get broken will be removed, or put above the reach of a toddler. I remember when I was first married, just a young thing, and my sister came to visit with her daughter (the one who now has an eight year old!). My sister grinned evilly as she walked around our new flat, picking up the occasional wedding present that was high on a shelf and saying “does this usually live here?” She recognised I child-proofed the house.
A few years later, I was living in Thailand and friends visited with their one year old (he’s just turned 20 and is graduating university this year - argh!). I’d been away on a business trip, and so returned the morning after they arrived. I walked into our apartment and stopped, shocked! It looked as if burglars had visited, not good friends. Turns out my husband had taken all the precious or breakable stuff, and our Persian rugs off the polished wood floors, and hidden them in the spare spare room.
So yes, we child-proof our house sometimes – it’s only sensible! But I also believe that parents need to take responsibility for their children when they’re in our house – it’s not our job to ensure that our house is child-proofed 100%. I also believe that children understand that there are houses where they behave differently from the way they do at home. Growing up I knew that. And I’ve had remarkably few incidents in my un-child-proofed home, because I’ve seen the children behave themselves. I’ve also seen fathers panic when I have put a full wine glass on the carpet, when a child is a few feet away. He literally yelled at me to put it away. The child was nowhere near. Besides, I said, "she’s going to be careful, isn’t she?" She nodded. And she was. I expected (and got) better from her than he did.
I did feel guilty however the day a friend and I had been chatting, wondered what the children were doing downstairs, and found one of the boys playing with the lighter I kept near the candles. Fortunately, he couldn’t figure out how to work it. So now, if there are small children visiting, I remove the lighter.